Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Scale of Eternal Importance

by Stephanie Black

I’ve been agonizing over a writing matter lately, wringing my hands and generally working myself into a tizzy. I was talking to my mother about it and she said that when she gets herself worked up over some minor matter, one of my father’s favorite sayings is: “On a scale of importance from one to ten, this is a zero.” That statement rings true to me, because I’m just the person to get myself in a snarl over a bunch of zero-ranked trivialities. My worries about writing and so on—let’s face it. Those issues don’t rank high on the scale of eternal importance.

But every now and then, something happens that ranks a ten. And today, with a ten-ranking matter on my mind, no light-hearted blogging topic feels appropriate.

Today is the funeral for my cousin. He was twenty-seven years old, married, and with a son who will have his first birthday in a few days. To protect the privacy of his family, I won’t give his name, but I’d like to share a few thoughts concerning him.

I didn’t know my cousin on a personal level. We are a very large family, spread out all over the country. He’s a lot younger than I am, so we didn’t hang around together at the family reunions that we attended as children, in the days before the extended clan got so big that the multi-day reunions became unworkable. But the eternal bonds of family are strong, and in our hearts, our extended family comes together to support and pray for each other in times of need.

Through the words of those who were close to my cousin, I know that he was a truly remarkable man. A valiant man of great ability. A man of tremendous courage and tremendous faith, married to a woman of equal valor and faith.

Elder Dennis E. Simmons of the Quorum of the Seventy spoke in April 2004 General Conference about the nature of faith. He told the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, about to be thrown into the fiery furnace by their enemies. These young men confidently declared that God could deliver them—but if not, they would still continue faithful.

Elder Simmons said, “They knew that they could trust God—even if things didn’t turn out the way they hoped.”

Things didn’t turn out the way we’d hoped.

We knew that the Lord could deliver my cousin from the cancer that afflicted him, no matter how bad the medical outlook. In countless prayers and in family fasts, we asked that he be healed.

But if not . . . we will trust in the Lord, for He alone knows all things and sees with an eternal perspective.

When it comes right down to it, the only things that do rank a ten on the scale of importance are the things that matter eternally. Like faith.

And families.


At 4/26/2006 11:31 AM, Blogger Christopher Bigelow said...

What if your writing directly affects someone else's faith? Then it could rank a lot higher in eternal importance, maybe even a 10 for that person, if it's what made the defining difference...

At 4/26/2006 2:23 PM, Blogger Darvell Hunt said...

I agree with Chris.

I recently wrote a fictional short story about my mom's cancer and how it is slowly taking her life. I fictionalized it, but it's mostly about true events. I used it as therapy for accepting the loss of my mother. I also happen to know that it has helped others as well. It's one of the most important stories I have ever written and even though it is extremely personal to me, I want the whole world to read it.


At 4/26/2006 3:24 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Christopher and Darvell, thank you for your beautiful insights.

The writing matter I was concerned about really was trivial, but I didn't mean to imply that nothing about writing matters. Of course it does. Our writing can have great impact in our lives and in the lives of our readers--even eternal impact.

At 4/26/2006 3:53 PM, Blogger annegb said...

I haven't read your book yet, Stephanie, I hope your hand wringing isn't on my account, but I suspect I've brought contention into your life. I'm sorry, not my intent.

At least not consciously, the others who reside in my brain, I'm not responsible for them.

First let me say how sorry I am about the loss of your cousin. I think it's doubly sad when it's someone you wish you'd known better.

I've lost loved ones to cancer. It's a bad word.

Then let me say you write wonderfully eloquently about your feelings here. Which many--if not MOST Mormons can do, we're mostly well educated and have deeply spiritual feelings and experiences, bar none, I find this in my friends.

I wish this could translate into fiction. I can't do it, as deeply as I feel.

My writing has impacted others. I wrote my son's obituary, for instance, and was completely candid about his suicide. Affected perfect strangers. One small example how we can influence others for good.

This sharing you've done touched me. Thank you.

Incidentally, your reasonable tone on your blog, and acknowledging the posts is a good thing. In the world of blogging.

Do you have a comments policy? Were I you, I'd publish it loud and proud. Most people will abide it and those who disregard it should get one warning, nicely, then be booted.

I get nice warnings rather frequently, but only one.

At 4/26/2006 5:41 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

annegb, thank you.

I'm so sorry to hear about your son's suicide. I can't imagine how painful that must be for you.

What a beautiful thing that you were able to bless others through your writing about that tragedy.

My handwringing was the product of my own insecurities and issues--no one's fault but my own.

Good suggestion about posting a comments policy. That way, we don't catch anyone by surprise. Sariah, what do you think?

And annegb, I've got to tell you that I'm really enjoying your sense of humor. The crack about your being the reason why Enoch 2 hasn't been translated yet . . . somehow I don't think you're the reason. And I've got this vision of you and your neighbor at the bookmobile, you reaching for the Alice Hoffman, she for the Anita Stansfield, both glaring at each other--and loving the arguments.

Thanks again. Your kind words mean a lot to me.


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